(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) While most senior centers across the U.S. have closed their doors due to COVID-19, one local senior center has stayed open.
The Joyce Raye Patterson 50+ Activity Center has continued to welcome in their guests throughout the pandemic, but staff said it wasn't an easy decision.
“When it came time for us to consider reopening, we were really hesitant to do it. I mean, the age group that comes here is one of the most susceptible to COVID,” said Julie Noel, Senior Center Manager.
The COVID-19 virus has hit all age groups, but it's proven to be more fatal towards seniors which could explain why most facilities are closed.
According to the National Recreation and Park Association, 73% of senior centers in the country have remained closed during the coronavirus health crisis. But unlike the majority, JRP decided to stay open to give their members a place to socialize safely.
“We have people that come here that live alone and that’s the only interaction with people they get because they don’t have family around,” said Noel.
JRP members said after the lockdown was lifted, they were worried the center was going to remain closed. After hearing the activity center decided to open its doors once again, they were surprised and relieved.
“This is my normal. It’s nice to have it back. I come down here 2-3 hours Monday-Friday. These guys all have their routines. People are enjoying coming down here. There’s not much else to do out and this is one of the safer places to be out,” said Charlie Clisbee, JRP and Pool Association member.
JRP staff said the strictly enforced safety measures are what's keeping the center open and members feeling safe. The fitness center is by appointment only, allowing a maximum of 15 members within the fitness center at a time and keeping a 12 foot distance from any one person.
The senior center is requiring masks, social distancing and routinely disinfecting everything. Members for a time being could workout without a mask, but staff quickly changed that policy.
“We watch those COVID numbers every single day and with the rise in hospitalizations and deaths, they have to wear those masks again,” said Noel.
Starting Friday, September 4th, all members must wear a mask inside the fitness center and everywhere else inside the senior center.
JPR did have a member test positive for the virus, but staff said the member was never positive while using the facility.
“They started feeling symptoms a day after they’d been here and they got diagnosed a couple days later and they hadn’t been back here. So, because of the timeline we were okay,” said Noel.
While the center has managed to stay open safely, JRP staff said they know staying open is a game of chance.
“We know we’re taking a risk by being open, but we also know there is a risk for us not being open,” said Noel.
All dances at the senior center have been cancelled.
For a look at JRP's calendar, go to St. Joseph's website.